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The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised



Jackson County 1877


    Of all the varied and beautiful country which is found between Los Angeles and Puget Sound, none is more lovely in climate, more fertile in soil, more varied in products and more exquisite in scenery than the valley of Rogue River in Southern Oregon. Jackson County, through which the river runs, is the southern county of the state. There the almond, the fig and the magnolia, the pride of the South, grow and bloom in the open air. With the Siskiyous on the south, dividing it from California, the Cascades or Sierras on the east, and the Coast Range on the west, and its beautiful prairies--dotted with oak groves and teeming with grain, orchards and vineyards--running up to the foot of the mountains--it presents a scene at once soft and grand, like "Beauty sleeping in the lap of Terror."
"A Trip to Crater Lake in Southern Oregon," Morning Oregonian, Portland, June 28, 1877, page 4

    After leaving Cottonwood our road winds around, up and down hill. After climbing the Siskiyou Mountains and arriving on the summit, we stopped to take a farewell view of California. We could not see very much, as our view was somewhat limited by surrounding hills and mountains. We look ahead and see a portion of Oregon, travel down a steep hill, pay $1.25 toll for the privilege, and discover that the road workers failed to remove all the loose stones. We pass a mill, etc. We pass orchards, gardens and grain fields, with an abundance of grass. Occasionally we see an emigrant team, bound to or from California. We reach Ashland at 1:15, where we get a good dinner, then take a look at the place. This is a manufacturing town, making clothing, woolen mills, tannery, etc. It is also the proud possessor of the Ashland academy, so well and favorably known. Mr. Leak, of whom I made mention in my last as being sick at Oro Fino, is now well and teaching I am told. Ashland is well supplied with flowers and fruits. I saw a number of new buildings and other improvements going up. The business men seem to be doing well, while the merchants are carrying heavy stocks. On the whole, it is a very nice place. The surrounding lands are generally good.
    At 4:30 we started on our way again, and after passing some nice grain fields and the town of Phoenix, which is now considerably the worse for age, we reach Jacksonville at 7. Here I had the pleasure of grasping the hand of Frank Abell, Mr. Welsh's partner in the photographing and mining business. He passed most of the winter in Ashland, I believe, and is to start tomorrow at 3 a.m. for Roseburg, the county seat of Douglas County, Oregon.
    Jacksonville is the county seat of Jackson County, and I think does a very large business. At 10:30 a.m. we start for Canyonville, distant 72 miles. We passed Rock Point and crossed the Rogue River here, 50 cents toll. Near Woodville I had the pleasure of meeting J. C. Williams, an old Lake County friend. He likes this neighborhood, says he can purchase land and improvements for what the improvements alone cost.
R. D. Nunnally, "Notes on the Way to Oregon," Pacific Rural Press, San Francisco, July 7, 1877, page 2


    When morning dawned we were in Oregon, having mounted again in the early hours. A different landscape greeted us. We were passing between thick woods with close undergrowth of fern, trailing creepers of the wild cucumber, and berry-bearing bushes, black and red.
    There was no trace of the stony arid soil of the California mountains, with their prevailing tints of grey, yellow, and light brick dust red; but fresh green everywhere round us. A trickling stream by the roadside had formed a carpet of bright spongy moss, and the plants of the English woods and hedges, or their American cousins, seemed like old friends.
    We stopped to breakfast at a roadside inn, and were fed with abundance of cream and wild strawberries. A clear running rill of water had been led through a pipe from the hillside above, and flowed freely through the tank, where we washed off the dust of our second night's ride. We climbed to our places, and started refreshed for our day's journey.
    We passed through a wide tract of undulating country, green everywhere with woods and copses; on the upper ranges of the hills the firs showed black in the distance; but there were wide slopes of corn land and grass fields ripening into their summer yellow, and here and there a farmer's house, each with its wide veranda, and fruit trees round it, with its one barn and stable. The corners and angles of cleared land, cutting into the woods above, showed that the settlers were extending their cultivated fields and developing the productiveness of the country; and the soil, red or dark grey in prevailing tints, and free from rock and stone, prepared us, on the very boundary of the state, for the fertility we were to take note of for hundreds of miles on our northward journey.
    As the day wore on the heat became oppressive, while the sun poured down on the road, winding through the valleys. We passed one or two little towns and villages, all looking prosperous, with new houses being built or old ones enlarged.
    By the middle of the day we reached Jacksonville, a town of from 1,000 to 1,500 inhabitants, depending not only on the agricultural riches of the surrounding country, but on the gold mines on the headwaters of the Rogue River, which we were soon to pass. [The headwaters are actually on the slopes of Mount Mazama; Nash would be passing nowhere near them.]
    The day being Sunday the town was in absolute quiet; had we been in Scotland there could not have been a more perfect rest from all worldly pursuits. On the road as we drew near the town we passed wagons full of the country people on their way to church or chapel: the women in light print dresses, holding great blue or green umbrellas to protect themselves from the burning sun; the men in dark cloth jackets and trousers and soft felt hats. As the stage approaches they speak to their horses and draw slowly to the side of the road to let us pass, using no whip, and scarcely needing to touch the reins to get instant obedience. So far as horses are concerned, no Humane Society seems wanted in Oregon; we hardly ever saw one struck, never one maltreated or overdriven, from one end of the state to the other. The inside places of the stage were now filled up close. A farmer's wife, some fifty years of age, dressed in a brown alpaca suit of gown and tippet, of a fashion of fifty years back, with brass-rimmed spectacles on her nose, and tight little curls round her face, was put in. Her maiden niece, who had never smiled in her life, and never would, accompanied her, and sat in the corner, stiff, gaunt and angular. Then there was a cheery little Jewish bagman, who sold sewing machines all about the country and boasted he had left twelve behind him in Jacksonville and should never see them again; and then a seller of a new reaping machine, the wonder of the century, completed the full number. The farmer's wife never forgot it was Sunday, and tried to repress the irrepressible Jew; but he made jokes and told stories all the more. The reaping machine man gloried in having an Englishman to talk to who knew nothing of reaping machines; so on he droned, explaining principles and patents, and showing how his machine could cut and bind into sheaves, while others could only cut, and so on, till his auditor wished his machine and him together in the bottom of the Rogue River.
    Then we came to the mining district--nearly all washed out now--only a few Chinamen, picking up the white men's crumbs, being left. The deposits had been found generally in the beds of the rivers; so they had been diverted into fresh channels, and sluices run; and now the abandoned watercourses, with heaps of rough stones and gravel, and holes dug here and there, looked forlorn and ragged beyond description in the bright, hot sun. The forest was all round us; the stumps and roots of the trees had not been cleared from the road, and the horses often ran neatly on each side of a stump over which the bottom of the stage passed with only an inch or two to spare.
    By this time we had reached the high, rocky, broken ground dividing the headwaters of the Rogue and Umpqua rivers, and in the evening came to the little town of Galesville, where we changed drivers for the last time. [Nash is referring to the Rogue-Umpqua Divide, just south of today's Canyonville, which separates the two drainages, not their headwaters.]
    We were again in the heart of the mountains surrounding the head of the Rogue River Valley. The land in the valley was rich and the crops luxuriant, only the corn which the settlers raise beyond their own needs they must give to the hogs, for there is no way of getting it to a profitable market. The stage passing daily each way with mails and passengers is their one link to the outer world; but it takes no passengers to the valley, nor brings any away; summer by summer, winter by winter, they live on in their isolation, without even the ordinary farmers' topics of markets, labor and stock: self-contained and happy in their freedom from all wants they cannot supply and from all ambitions they cannot satisfy.

Wallis Nash, Oregon: There and Back in 1877, MacMillan and Co. 1878, page


    Leaving Roseburg, by private conveyance we arrived at Jacksonville on the evening of the second day, after a buggy ride of one hundred miles over the prettiest road and through the most romantic scenery in the world. The road winding through deep canyons, beside rippling mountain streams, passing over high, narrow grades, traversing glades of gigantic forests, mounting to the summit of lofty mountains, and descending again into rich valleys inhabited by the thriftiest of ranchmen, render the whole route one complete succession of delightful surprises.
    Jacksonville, the metropolis of Southern Oregon, is romantically situated in a lovely little nook at the side of Rogue River Valley and under the shadow of Mount McLoughlin, one of the monarchs of the Siskiyou chain of mountains, which describe a crescent on the south of that most lovely valley. The Rogue River Valley is a large basin, almost oval in shape, and contains many thousands of acres of rich agricultural land, besides having its margin covered with rich gold placer diggings, from which in the winter seasons the miners pan out large quantities of the precious dust. New mining interests are being constantly developed in the region. At present Hon. D. P. Thompson, of Oregon City, ex-Governor of Idaho, has some 350 men employed in constructing a water ditch for the purpose of working a gold mine situated eight or ten miles from Jacksonville. The ditch is to be some forty-one miles in length, and will cost something over one hundred thousand dollars. The company of which Gov. Thompson is the head are all "heavy men," and are determined to push this enterprise to a successful completion at an early day. But as they are confident there is millions in the mine they are not at all frightened at the expenditure of a few hundred thousand just now. Other extensive mining schemes are being pushed forward, both in Jackson and Josephine counties, and if they prove as profitable as their owners anticipate, Southern Oregon is destined to become in time the real El Dorado of the Pacific.
    At Jacksonville we met many valued friends, among whom were Judge Prim and family, Hon. A. C. Jones and family, Mrs. G. T. Vining, widow of the late Hon. G. T. Vining, who went down on the ill-fated steamer Pacific, Gen. Jno. E. Ross, Col. J. N. T. Miller, Hon. Henry Klippel, Thos. G. Reames, Rev. Mr. Bell, et al. Indeed, to attempt to enumerate or name the friends with whom we clasped hands and upon whose bosoms we sighed would occupy the full space of our valuable columns. To Mrs. Judge Prim and daughter, Hon. A. C. Jones and wife and Mrs. G. T. Vining we are especially indebted for courteous hospitalities. Also to Mr. Hermann Helms for valuable relics from his cabinet of geological specimens. Indeed, Mr. Helms has one of the most interesting cabinets in the world, but as he had a rattlesnake skin in most conspicuous view we didn't stop to investigate things very closely. The fact is, the writer of these few lines accidentally and without malice aforethought placed his hand upon a live rattlesnake once, since which time the serpent business has not been extensively patronized by the deponent.
    It was terrible warm in Jacksonville--the geewholloper climbing clear over the 100 pole--hence we drive to Ashland (17 miles south) by moonlight, arriving a little before midnight and stirring out mine host of the Ashland Hotel, with a nervous vim which started several neighborhood canines to howling and came near bringing the "perlice" down onto our exhausted frame. (And by the way, that would have been a diversion for Ashland, for they have had a city government and a mayor and recorder and marshal and the other useless appendages of a country town for a year and a half and haven't yet had a single unfortunate character incarcerated in their neatly constructed calaboose. Indeed, the last Legislature was deluged with long-winded bills granting incorporation charters to the towns throughout the state, at a cost of many hundred dollars to the taxpayers, and it is probable that these charters were all about as badly needed as the one at Ashland. However, this is parenthetical.)
    The little city of Ashland is decidedly the most beautiful and romantically situated of any town in Oregon. It nestles in a little nook at the southern limit of the Rogue River Valley, and is the very footstool of the giant chain of [the] Siskiyou Mountains, which divide Oregon from California; it is carved and checkered by irrigating streams which cause every home within its limits to bloom with loveliest flowers and feed on richest fruits. And besides being a little paradise of home loveliness, its unrivaled water power is busily engaged in driving a large flouring mill, a woolen factory, and other important industries. Indeed, Ashland may be called the Lowell of Southern Oregon, and is destined in time to outstrip many of her more pretentious rivals. And, by the way, there is one thing peculiar about that burg, viz.: Although it numbers some eight hundred inhabitants, yet it contains neither a church nor a saloon!--and it is claimed to be the most moral place in the world! The mystery to us is how in the dickens did they all get so strictly moral without having some brimstone talked into 'em or having the terrible example of a gin mill daily thrust in their faces. The peculiar morals of this town everlastingly knocks the philosophy and reason out from under us, and leaves us in a chaos of uncertainty whether to advise against the establishment of churches or jerk an ethical discourse against the liquor traffic. Come to think of it, however,  morality is only a precept which all men preach and but few follow, hence our injunction to abolish churches and saloons would most probably have about the same weight with this degenerate world.
    At Ashland we met many old-time friends whose tum-tums seemed to vibrate with ecstasy at sight of our night-blooming serious countenance. Here is the mountain retiracy of Hon. W. A. McPherson, once State Printer and therefore much cussed; here is Hon. Jno. McCall, at present a member of the Legislature and a hospitable gentleman--for a Republican; and here, as the blooming city marshal for whom there is nothing to do, is Uncle Isaac Miller, formerly of Linn County, and a Democrat in whom there is no guile. And here are several other Linn County nomads, among whom may be named Hon. Ed. Farlow, Superintendent of Public Instruction for Jackson County, Dan. Gaby, Jas. D. Fountain and Elias Miller, all of whom got their start in "Old Linn," and all of whom express the abhorrent disgust of anybody that won't brag on our grand county. We were glad to learn that they were all flourishing like the traditional green bay horse, and expect to "keep up their lick" till they make their everlasting fortunes.
    From Ashland we drove out on the Linkville road, ten miles, to the Saratoga of the Siskiyous, the Soda Springs--a famous place of resort for Southern Oregonians. Mr. Jas. B. Russell keeps an elegant hotel here, and "lays himself out" for the accommodation of his guests who drink his soda water and make wry faces. Our better half told us confidentially that "Mr. Russell kept a very nice hotel, but if all the inducements he offered his guests was that nasty truck called soda water he couldn't get her patronage again for a long series of years." Mr. and Mrs. S. W. Sawyer (traveling on their wedding tour) were with us, and they unanimously ratified the seditious sentiments above quoted. So far as the undersigned is concerned he can state that he likes this soda water. Its component parts are varied and copious. The iron in it corrodes tin cups and gives a cast iron coating to the stomach; the effervescing qualities makes a smokestack out of your nose, and its peculiar taste of the green persimmon fixes your mouth for whispering politely to a waiter at a state dinner. And then it is more effective than a dose of compound cathartic pills. Yes, and the rattlesnakes in the rocks around the spring keep you lively and frisky, and don't allow you time for reflection on your latter end.
    We don't see how any well regulated family can do without one or two of these soda springs. They are warranted to stir people up any time in the day or night, and the wakefulness which they produce is represented as a cheap substitute for alarm clocks and fire bells.
    The Soda Springs is as far as we went south, but on our return we saw and experienced some things which we reserve for future infliction.
"The Switzerland of America," States Rights Democrat, Albany, Oregon, August 10, 1877, page 2


JOTTINGS IN SOUTHERN OREGON.
    While at Ashland we met Mr. Put. Smith, formerly of Portland, who has a large band of thoroughbred Merino sheep, which he purchased in California and intends to dispose of in Oregon. He has already sold a large number of sheep, at good prices, but is saving the cream of his flock for sale in the Willamette Valley about the time of the State Fair.
    At Ashland we met Mr. O. C. Applegate, editor of the Ashland Tidings, to whom we are indebted for many courtesies. While there we observed a large party arranging for a trip to Crater Lake, and as Mr. Wicks, of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Weekly, will most probably join the party, we may expect to see in a short time a correct illustration of that most remarkable inland sea.
    At Ashland we also met Rev. Mr. Bell, a Southern Methodist preacher whose circuit extends about as widely as did that of Lorenzo Dow. He preaches at Jacksonville, Ashland (17 miles away), Kirbyville, Josephine County (70 miles away), at Linkville, Lake County (90 miles away), and at many intermediate points besides. Indeed it is probable that Bro. Bell scatters the Gospel over a radius of at least five hundred miles, and is said to keep his appointments to a dot. But we suppose he must be paid at least one hundred and ninety-five dollars a year for his services, and is therefore happy! Methodist preachers can usually afford to perform a great deal of work--they get so well paid!
    We forgot to say that at Jacksonville the Masonic fraternity have the finest hall in the state, except the one in the Portland Masonic Temple. It is thoroughly ventilated, amply proportioned and elegantly furnished with all modern comforts. The building in which the hall is located cost about $11,000, is owned by the fraternity, and is the pride of Jacksonville.
    There are some waggish boys in Jacksonville. While there we noticed a patent medicine man vending his wares in the street from a goods-box stand, and while he absented himself from his stand for a little while one of the town boys went to work and sold the goods all out and had most of the proceeds spent in cigars and lemonade. Tom. Reames, the principal merchant of the city, said it was "the best sale made that day."
    At Jacksonville the air is the clearest and lightest we ever experienced. Indeed the atmosphere is fully fifty percent lighter than in the Willamette Valley. One gentleman asserted most solemnly that the air was so clear and light and conveyed sound so distinctly that he could hear a man who had money to loan some 40 miles away!
    Jacksonville has two well-conducted newspapers--the Times and Sentinel. Both are edited with care and ability, and are valuable acquisitions to that flourishing burg.
    At the margin of Rogue River Valley, 14 miles south of Jacksonville, we had a fine view of Table Rock, seemingly many miles to the eastward. It is apparently an upright wall, some hundreds of feet  high, supporting a level surface resembling a table. It is said that during the early struggles between the whites and Indians a band of the latter were pursued and driven to the very verge of Table Rock, and that after a hard fight, in which the whites steadily gained the advantage, many of the Indians, to escape being shot or captured, leaped from this fearful height to the chasm below. As it was said to be about three hundred feet from the top to the nearest "lighting" place, we leave the imaginative reader to guess how much of each Indian was left for practical purposes. A loquacious Dutchman who "keeps store" at the point where we got our first view of Table Rock [Willow Springs?] recited this legend to us, and after he had concluded his thrilling narrative he very suddenly says: "Ofer I forgets by myself. Dose Injuns get killed py dot yump!" We gazed in an awe-stricken manner at the fearful height, and told him we thought so.
    Leaving Rock Point and coming down Rogue River, we saw some splendid cornfields. Mr. Birdseye has one of almost 80 acres which is as thrifty in appearance and will doubtless yield as heavily as any of the great corn-producing prairies of Iowa or Illinois. Indeed all the little valleys from the time we left the Willamette until we arrived at the California line were dotted and checked with corn fields of most promising growth. Therefore, anybody that says we can't raise corn in Oregon is a bad egg.
States Rights Democrat, Albany, Oregon, August 17, 1877, page 2




Last revised April 14, 2017